By The Associated Press
HOUSTON -- Johnny Estrada hit his second grand slam of the season against Houston and Milwaukee overcame an injury to Ben Sheets to beat the Astros 9-1 on Tuesday night and move into first place in the NL Central.
Claudio Vargas (11-4) pitched four scoreless innings in relief of Sheets, who left with tightness in his left hamstring after giving up a run in the first. Team officials said Sheets would be evaluated on Wednesday.
The Astros have lost 10 of their last 13 games.
Ryan Braun added a two-run homer and Prince Fielder stretched his hitting streak to 16 games with an RBI single for the Brewers, who moved ahead of Chicago by less than a percentage point after the Cubs' 5-2 loss to Cincinnati.
Estrada's second career grand slam capped a five-run fourth inning off Felipe Paulino (0-1), who was making his first major-league start. Estrada is 6-for-10 with 19 RBIs with the bases loaded this season.
Geoff Jenkins and Rickie Weeks hit back-to-back homers off Brian Moehler in the ninth.
Seth McClung, Derrick Turnbow and Greg Aquino combined to shut out the Astros without a hit over the final four innings.
Reds 5, Cubs 2
CHICAGO (AP) -- Aaron Harang allowed six hits and two runs over seven innings and Cincinnati knocked Chicago out of first place in the NL Central.
The loss coupled with Milwaukee's 9-1 win in Houston left the Brewers less than a percentage point ahead of the Cubs. Chicago has 10 games left.
David Weathers worked the ninth for his 31st save in 37 chances.
Edwin Encarnacion homered and had three hits for the Reds.
Carlos Zambrano (16-13) dropped to 2-4 in six starts since agreeing to a five-year, $91.5 million contract on Aug. 17. Working on three days' rest for the first time, he lasted just 5 1-3 innings, giving up seven hits and four runs with three walks and a hit batsman.
Brandon Phillips and Encarnacion had RBI singles for a 2-0 lead. An RBI single by Norris Hopper made it 3-0 in the second.
Jacque Jones had a two-run single with the bases loaded in the fourth for the Cubs.
Encarnacion's homer, his 14th, made it 4-1.
Nationals 9, Mets 8
WASHINGTON (AP) -- John Maine squandered a big lead and New York's losing streak reached five games when its ninth-inning rally fell short.
New York built leads of 4-0 and 7-3 for Maine, but he couldn't hang on. Ronnie Belliard's three-run homer capped a five-run fifth that gave Washington an 8-7 lead, and pinch-hitter D'Angelo Jimenez added a solo shot in the sixth off Scott Schoeneweis.
The Mets scored once in the ninth against closer Chad Cordero, but pinch-hitter Ruben Gotay struck out with runners at the corners to end it.
The Mets began the night with a 2 1/2-game lead over Philadelphia in the NL East. They had a seven-game lead after games of Sept. 12. No major league team has failed to finish in first place after leading by seven or more games on Sept. 12 or later.
Maine (14-10) allowed a career-high eight runs in 4 1-3 innings.
Jesus Colome (5-1), the fourth of nine Nationals pitchers, worked a scoreless sixth for the win. Cordero earned his 35th save.
Rockies 3, Dodgers 1, 1st game
DENVER (AP) -- Jeff Francis struck out a career-high 10 for Colorado in the first game of a doubleheader.
Francis (16-8) allowed one run and six hits and stranded eight runners in 6 2-3 innings. His 10 strikeouts were the most by a Rockie since Jason Jennings had 10 against San Francisco on Aug. 28, 2003.
Chad Billingsley (11-5) allowed two earned runs and four hits in 5 1-3 innings. In his last five starts, Billingsley is 4-1 with a 1.87 ERA.
Manny Corpas pitched a perfect ninth for his 15th save in as many chances since becoming Colorado's closer.
The Dodgers began the day three games behind San Diego in the NL wild-card race and Colorado started five back.
Cory Sullivan doubled twice and scored the Rockies' first two runs. Matt Holliday drove him home in the fourth with a single and Todd Helton drove him home with a single in the sixth.
Pinch-hitter Olmedo Saenz homered in the seventh for the Dodgers and Joe Koshansky, also pinch-hitting, hit an RBI double in the bottom of the inning for his first major league hit.
Braves 4, Marlins 3
ATLANTA (AP) -- Atlanta scored all its runs on two-out singles and the Braves used seven pitchers for their third straight win.
Rafael Soriano pitched the ninth for his seventh save as the Marlins lost their third straight.
Jeff Francoeur, Edgar Renteria, Yunel Escobar and Brian McCann had the run-scoring singles for the Braves. Francoeur's came in the first, Renteria's in the second and Escobar's in the fourth. McCann's single in the fifth gave the Braves a 4-1 lead and chased rookie Chris Seddon (0-1).
Making his second career start, Seddon allowed nine hits, four runs -- three earned -- with one walk and one strikeout in 4 2-3 innings.
The Marlins cut the lead to 4-3 in the seventh on Miguel Cabrera's two-run single.
Rookie Jo-Jo Reyes (1-2) earned his first career victory after allowing three hits, one run and three walks in five innings. The left-hander struck out seven.